Disclaimer: I'm not a nutritional expert or dietician, or a medical professional, so you can choose not to listen to me if you want. Just please speak to one of the aforementioned people if you have any real diet questions or concerns.
It's January. Which means that scattered in amongst all the typical 'New Year's Resolution' blog posts that are the norm for this time of year, we also get treated to a number of diet-related musings and ideas. Most notably, the advocation of detox. Fans of this self-imposed dietary torture will preach its almost-godly health benefits, everything from a cleansed colon to a significantly altered mental state - despite the fact that these things have never especially been proven to be GOOD for the human body.
After reading what seemed like the millionth 'cleanse'-worshipping blog post of this year thus far, I had a short rant on Facebook about my feelings on the subject. I was pleasantly surprised by the comments I received, and the amount of people who agree with me in thinking detoxes are bollocks.
The harsh regimes can be anywhere from excessively restrictive raw diets, liquid diets (in the form of soups and juices) and, at the most extreme end, water fasts. Usually such plans go on for weeks, during which time the detoxers alternate between giving painful accounts of their suffering and shouting from the rooftops about how AMAZING they feel.
The supposed 'euphoria' that often seems to accompany such cleanses is probably the main thing that disturbs me. As some of you will know, I'm a recovered anorexic who dealt with the illness for almost four years as a late teenager. For most of this period, I was a willing victim, and pro-ana in the worst sense of the word.
There's no need for me to go into much detail about what exactly anorexia can do to you - that's another, much more depressing post that may never come to fruition, and it's easily Google-able. But one of the chief things I recall from being an anorexic is that little thrill that courses through a malnourished brain. Lightheadedness can be oddly euphoric, especially if one knuckles down to a task and finds themselves unusually lucid and able to concentrate. You'd think the opposite is true, for someone who isn't eating, but powering on is something that people with EDs do every single day.
I'm not in any way suggesting that all the folks who detox are concealing (or lauding) some kind of eating disorder, or even that they are promoting eating disorders to vulnerable men (yes, men have these issues too) and women. It just needs to be noted that, when your brain is starved of adequate nutrients, reactions such as 'euphoria' are not uncommon, and it's something that needs to be carefully monitored. Deprivation is not a worthwhile route to anything. Abstinence is not the answer (and that goes for food, too).
I reserve a special kind of hatred for those bloggers who, when doling out diet advice, do not suggest that their readers visit a doctor before embarking on ANY kind of radical lifestyle change. I know, it's common sense - but then it's also common courtesy of people to mention it as a reminder. Sure, that doesn't mean said readers WILL bother to go to their GP before trying detox, but then it isn't our problem anymore.
As an aside to all my apparent venom on this topic, you'll find that most doctors do not advocate these kinds of extreme measures when it comes to switching up your eating habits. Personally, if I've decided to go on a health kick, I'll just slowly introduce more fruits and vegetables into my daily diet, and healthier snacks, then cut down on the dairy and chocolate. Unless you're trying to lose pounds rapidly, or you have a special medical condition, or you need a specified health plan for a particular weight issue - in which case you should DEFINITELY speak to your doctor first - that and an increase in exercise are the only things that are going to cut it. You don't need to forcibly fuck your system into submission - it's designed to flush out impurities and toxins on its own. In my mind, heavy detox is akin to vaginal douching (no, you're not supposed to do that either. Seriously), and don't even get me started on colonic irrigation. Eat what you want (within reason - as long as you're not living off Party Rings you should be OK) and exercise. Really. It isn't rocket science. The issue with detox is that it is the lowest point of perpetual hysteria about what we can and can't eat, when honestly, you CAN eat quite a lot of things. Cleansing may only be routine for several days/weeks, but the culture of nutritional boot camps, for example (they do exist, unfortunately) is a significant indicator of our obsession with food - eating it, not eating it, eating it and then purging it - same difference, same obsession.
My message here is simply to BE SENSIBLE. However, if you don't feel like being sensible, at least be careful. I'll be here, eating cake.
(P.S. I took the cake photo at the Florian in Venice in 2008. It's the chocolate mousse. It can destroy worlds, and taste bloody amazing whilst doing so).